18 December 2009

Such freedom from convention was intoxicating.

It's really nice to read without having any other homework eating at me. Any time I sit down to do reading for class, some ridiculous, masochistic part of me says, 'No, this part has to be last; you actually enjoy this.' Since spring semester hasn't even started yet, I, of course, don't have any other assignments.

Yesterday, I picked up "Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic," which I'll be reading for Gay and Lesbian Lit next semester. I must admit, as obvious as it may seem, the idea of reading ahead has never occurred to me. Marcy mentioned that she was going to try to get some reading done over winter break, and I thought, 'What a brilliant idea!! I can't ever think of something to read, and I'm always bored to tears at home!' and here I am.

This graphic memoir is the author's recollection of her sexually confused home, particularly in respect to her father, who died when she was twenty. He was hit by a truck--officially an accident, perhaps a suicide. Their family dynamic is very unique, and yet, I find it relatable despite completely different circumstances within my household.

Bechdel explains that her parents were both artists in multiple forms--her mother a pianist and actress, her father a literary scholar with a flair for interior design--and that often she interrupted their moments of escape.

"It's childish, perhaps, to grudge them the sustenance of their creative solitude, but it was all that sustained them, and was thus all-consuming. From their example, I learned quickly to feed myself. It was a vicious circle, though. The more gratification we found in our own geniuses, the more isolated we grew. Our home was like an artists' colony. We ate together, but otherwise were absorbed in our seperate pursuits. And in this isolation, our creativity took on an aspect of compulsion."

I see this so vividly in my own family. We are less of a unit and more several units coexisting in the same space. We don't hate each other. We don't necessarily like each other, but we certainly love each other with all of our hearts, and that stands for something, doesn't it?

She mentions another time that she feels as though there was an unspoken agreement that she would go on to live the artistic life that both of her parents gave up for a family. The unspoken request my parents seem to be making is interesting--it seems to me that they want me to do just as they have done, but WITHOUT that regret of giving something else up. It seems they want me to give up the same things, they just want me to "see" that it's worth it.

The problem, of course, is that my parents have accidently raised their polar opposites in children. While my brother maintains their political and religious beliefs, I honestly think (and hope...) that it's only a manner of time. I didn't consider other options until college; I'll consider him up in the air until he gets to college as well.

Basically, this book is very easy to fall into. It's easy to exchange your family's issues for those Alison brings up, and it's easy to remember those tiny psychological scars that parallel events left in you. This 'quick read' has a lot of depth, and I know that it will take two or three more quick reads through it to pick up half of the meaning in these anecdotes.

As a graphic narrative, it's a totally new genre for me, and I must say it is enjoyable. It forces me to see the story first and its typographical delivery second, with fair reason and to my advantage. It's definitely worth the read.

-- Post From My iPhone

04 December 2009

End-of-the-Semester Remarks

One of the first classes of the semester, several people mentioned they could not relate to the classics. As a lover of Shakespeare and Faulkner and Steinbeck as well as a future teacher, I mentioned (with a little help from my friends) that the teacher had not done his/her job and that was not the fault of the classics.

After learning what the term "young adult literature" really meant (which took a while, I admit), I realized that one way those teachers could have related classical literature to their students was through the idea of pairing similarly-themed young adult literature and classical literature, assisting students in relating and understanding the material as well as piquing their interest in the upcoming classic.

When it boils down to it, everyone learns differently. I would be foolish to disallow myself a strategy that may better my students' experiences as readers.

01 December 2009

Ageless and Timeless Literature

For my final project in The Adolescent in American Literature, I chose to create a class called "Ageless and Timeless Literature." This idea was inspired by The Hunger Games, to a certain extent; Healy and I talked about the repetitiveness of this story, from an ancient Greek myth to an episode of Jimmy Neutron to the new sci-fi movie, Gamer. Society is still intrigued by the same story, transcending both time and age.

As someone who plans to never grow up, I decided that I would create two sets of books, each with a children's book, a young adult novel and a classic novel, all of which would be from any time, preferably, three different historical moments. All of these books deal with growing up in some way--all protagonists are at some stage of growing up. The overall theme of the course will be that you never stop growing up; you just change its name.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
The Looking Glass Wars
The Glass Menagerie

Peter Pan
Never After
Catcher in the Rye

Interestingly, both children's books are classics, both young adult books are brand new (published within the last three years) and both adult books are modern classics.

I haven't read either of these young adult novels, but all of the reviews I've seen have been spectacular.

22 November 2009

I think that as a general rule lonely people give other lonely people money a lot.

"I'm not saying that I ever expect you to toe the line or anything as insubstantial and conformist as that; I hope that you will do quite the opposite and question everything--teachers, coaches, priests, lawmakers, prime-time television shows, magazine ads, top-forty deejays, and any intellectual analgesic that could numb the senses and lure you into rote compliance like it has done to the vast, flimsy-minded flock of sheep that is America."

I guess I just have a thing for the Rapp brothers.

That is a piece of a letter that Peter wrote to his little brother Jamie (aka Punkzilla). In the same letter, Peter goes on to tell his fourteen-year-old brother that he has cancer. Jamie, desperate to see his big brother before he dies, has to get from Portland, Oregon to Memphis, Tennessee.

And when Jamie starts his journey, he's still feeling the meth from last night.

This novel is written in letters that aren't necessarily in order, but they are all dated. Jamie doesn't have the best syntax or punctuation, but he has the most beautiful thoughts sometimes, and he writes down every single one of them.

As a sucker for the Rapp boys and epistolary narrative style and stream of consciousness writing, I had no chance to escape this one.

15 November 2009

This week my son thinks he's the Supremes. All of them. So we can scratch "straight" off the list.

I never had a chance to dislike this book.

My Most Excellent Year: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

1. Musical theatre--I will put up with a lot of nonsense for a good musical theatre reference. I'm glad this did not have to be one of those times.

2. Epistolary narrative style--I'm a sucker for this stuff. It's the characterization and the raw beauty of stream of consciousness thought. I know that sounds strange coming from the punctuation fiend, but I can appreciate something that stirs empathy (Faulkner and e e cummings both have crazy punctuation, too, and I still love them with all of my heart and soul).

3. Diva of the week--Liza? Angela Lansbury? This is such an excellent idea that I may steal it from him. I think I'll start with Idina.

4. This quote--"And while I was tucking him in, I realized that we'd never had the "I'm gay" conversation. Has this generation finally made it superfluous? If only."

Basically, this book is a ton of fun. It's super cheesey most of the time, and it's far too happy...

...but we all need that once in a while, right?

05 November 2009

And this time he doesn't tell me to say mercy.

It's hard to talk about We Were Here without giving everything away. The most beautiful parts are the most anticipated and the most terrifying and devestating and to give them away would be cruel.

After "it" happened, Miguel was sent to a group home and required to write about "it" and talk about "it"--but he refuses to deal with "it." Miguel bonds with Mong and Rondell, two boys from the group home with issues of their own, and the three of them escape, running for Mexico, running from home.

There are times in the book when I would notice something hinting heavily at "it," but de la Pena manages to effectively surprise even those of us who saw "it" coming with his choppy phrases like choppy breaths as Miguel pours honesty out of his chest and onto the pages of his journal.

This novel speaks less to me about race as a specific prejudice and more to me about judgement as a generality. On the first page we see Miguel's sentencing, and we automatically assume he's a terrible kid. We don't stop to consider the severity of his crime or the circumstances of his commiting it, but worst of all, we don't stop to consider that he is still a person.

Honestly, I would rather see this story in a poetic format--a lot of the build up is just frustrating, but the style and wording when Miguel decribes "it" evokes such sympathy. I think those emotions would be stronger if they hadn't been dampered by time.

30 October 2009

She wasn't the kind of girl to attempt a makeover.

In the world of sarcastic teens, Frankie Landau-Banks is queen, but she's determined to be king.

In The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, Frankie is a student at a prestigious boarding school, Alabaster Prep. Her newly filled-out shirt negates her sophomore status; she gains the attentions of Matthew Livingston, a senior. After they begin dating, Frankie discovers that Matthew is a member of a secret society called "the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds," a once "respected" group of male pranksters. Angered by patriarchy and eager to prove herself, she creates a little prank of her own.

The message behind this book is clear--women are equal to men.

One aspect I feel is particularly unique is the recognition of differences between men and women; it separates the idea that women can only be equal to men if they are exactly the same. Frankie embraces her femininity while asserting her voice, while plotting and planning and scheming, while hoping for a better salad bar. Her introduction may seem as though she's taking the fall for these boys when in fact, she's taking the credit.

The message behind this book is clear--women do not have to act like men in order to be equal to men.

I've decided that, for the purposes of my Adolescent in American Literature class, I need to look at these books through a lens of thematic content more than syntactic content. My preferences are very particular, and viewing these books through such a limited perspective prohibits my ability to grant them merit, which is not fair to the authors or the readers or the characters for that matter.

The message behind this book is clear, and that's what makes it worth reading.